John Irvin, who directed the lean, surly Dogs of War, was a mysterious choice to make this 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub’s best-selling gothic—he hasn’t got an expressionist bone in his body, and without a florid, insinuating style, the story can’t get going. Most of the film is devoted to the tedious unraveling of the understory—what happened 40 years before among a group of college buddies (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman) and the tarty English girl who threatened their union (Alice Krige). Craig Wasson, as the youthful identity figure, is horribly miscast: he can’t control the skepticism that radiates from his face, and when he has to look frightened, he resorts to some laughably antique mime. With Patricia Neal.
NR • 4 hours